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DANIEL, GOD'S MAN IN THE FIELD (PART VII)
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
13 AUGUST 1989
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Preparation Verse: (James 4:10)
Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
Last week, in our look into the Book of Daniel, we saw that Nebuchadnezzar had made another proclamation concerning God, and we questioned whether or not he really believed.
The words he said were true, but did he really believe them?
Was his heart truly conformed to God's, or was he still unsubmitting and unrepentant?
Today we will hear more of that proclamation, beginning at Daniel 4:4. Let's
see if we can discern what he really believes.
4. "I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and flourishing in my palace.
Do you hear what he is saying?
Nebuchadnezzar is stating the fact that he was perfectly comfortable in all things. He had no cares or worries either at home or in his official business.
Keep this in mind as we continue.
5. "I saw a dream and it made me fearful; and these fantasies as I lay on my bed and the visions in my mind kept alarming me.
His peace and comfort had been shattered. He wasn't as confident in himself as he thought he was.
6. "So I gave orders to bring into my presence all the wise men of Babylon, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream.
7. "Then the magicians, the conjurers, the Chaldeans, and the diviners came in, and I related the dream to them; but they could not make its interpretation known to me.
Doesn't this sound very much like the situation that occurred shortly after Daniel and his friends had finished the special schooling ordered by the king?
But Nebuchadnezzar is still calling upon the false "wise men" instead of calling upon those he knew could tell him the truth.
Once we know the truth, we are to turn away from those things that are against the will of God.
In His word God tells us that all who do magic, who divine, and who interpret things from sources other than from God, are evil.
Once we know the truth, we are to avoid such people and practices.
We are to turn away from following horoscopes, palm and tealeaf readings, and similar things – even if we just do it for fun.
We are to seek only the Lord our God and His answers concerning matters such as those that Nebuchadnezzar is relating to us.
8. "But finally Daniel came in before me, whose name is Belteshazzar according to the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and I related the dream to him, saying,
Before we hear what Nebuchadnezzar is going to say, let's make sure we heard what he just said.
He still is acknowledging that Daniel was renamed after his god. He did not say his former god. He said his god.
Nebuchadnezzar also said that Daniel has the spirit of the holy gods, not our One true God who had been working through Daniel and his friends and had been showing him all the things we have looked at during our study.
Before we accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we ourselves were
most likely the same as Nebuchadnezzar; and the world is full of non-believers.
We all have heard the truth, but we failed to accept it. We thought we were still in control, and some of you may still think you're in control.
Hear this from Nebuchadnezzar, as we continue to listen to his words:
9. 'O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, since I know that a spirit of the holy gods is in you and no mystery baffles you, tell me the visions of my dream which I have seen, along with its interpretation.
Last week we heard Nebuchadnezzar proclaiming the truth about God; but here, from his own words, we see that he doesn't really believe; or is it that he didn't believe, but since the time of this proclamation, he does believe?
10. 'Now these were the visions in my mind as I lay on my bed: I was looking, and behold, there was a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great.
11. 'The tree grew large and became strong,
And its height reached to the sky,
And it was visible to the end of the whole earth.
12. 'Its foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant,
And in it was food for all.
The beasts of the field found shade under it,
And the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches,
And all living creatures fed themselves from it.
Who or what do you think this tree is?
See if you can discern the true interpretation along with Daniel, as we continue to hear what Nebuchadnezzar is saying:
13. 'I was looking in the visions in my mind as I lay on my bed, and behold, an angelic watcher, a holy one, descended from heaven.
Do you remember what we have said about angels?
They are messengers of God.
They ascend into heaven with our prayers and the thoughts of our hearts and minds, and then they descend with God's answer. This angel is bringing the answer to Nebuchadnezzar.
14. 'He shouted out and spoke as follows:
"Chop down the tree and cut off its branches,
Strip off its foliage and scatter its fruit;
Let the beasts flee from under it,
And the birds from its branches.
15. "Yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground,
But with a band of iron and bronze around it
In the new grass of the field;
And let him be drenched with the dew of heaven,
And let him share with the beasts in the grass of the earth.
16. "Let his mind be changed from that of a man,
And let a beast's mind be given to him,
And let seven periods of time pass over him.
17. "This sentence is by the decree of the angelic watchers,
And the decision is a command of the holy ones,
In order that the living may know
That the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind,
And bestows it on whom He wishes,
And sets over it the lowliest of men."
18.'This is the dream which I, King Nebuchadnezzar, have seen. Now you, Belteshazzar, tell me its interpretation, inasmuch as none of the wise men of my kingdom is able to make known to me the interpretation; but you are able, for a spirit of the holy gods is in you.'
Nebuchadnezzar, in relating this story, is still referring to more than one god. Does he really know the difference or not?
Did you discern who or what the tree is?
Let's see if it's the same as the interpretation that God gave to Daniel:
19. "Then Daniel, whose name is Belteshazzar, was appalled for a while as his thoughts alarmed him. The king responded and said, 'Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its interpretation alarm you.' Belteshazzar answered and said, 'My lord, if only the dream applied to those who hate you, and its interpretation to your adversaries!
20. 'The tree that you saw, which became large and grew strong, whose height reached to the sky and was visible to all the earth,
21. and whose foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which the beasts of the field dwelt and in whose branches the birds of the sky lodged –
22. it is you, O king; for you have become great and grown strong, and your majesty has become great and reached to the sky and your dominion to the end of the earth.
Yes, the tree was Nebuchadnezzar; and God had a very strong message for him:
23. 'And in that the king saw an angelic watcher, a holy one, descending from heaven and saying, "Chop down the tree and destroy it; yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground, but with a band of iron and bronze around it in the new grass of the field, and let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him share with the beasts of the field until seven periods of time pass over him";
24. this is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king:
25. that you be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place be with the beasts of the field, and you be given grass to eat like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven; and seven periods of time will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whomever He wishes.
26. 'And in that it was commanded to leave the stump with the roots of the tree, your kingdom will be assured to you after you recognize that it is Heaven that rules.
27. Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you: break away now from your sins by doing righteousness, and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity.'
God had indeed shown Nebuchadnezzar enough, so that it should have brought him to repentance and humbled him; but Nebuchadnezzar stubbornly held on to his pride, as we have seen.
Thus, God has had enough, and has presented Nebuchadnezzar with this final warning.
Will he heed this warning or not?
Stay tuned for next week's exciting chapter in the life of Daniel, and the people and events that show that God is still in control – even in heathen lands.
Nebuchadnezzar isn't the only person who has suffered from having a prideful attitude. Probably most of us have had the same problem at one time or another.
It's all right for us to take pride in our accomplishments, providing that is where it ends.
When our pride becomes boastful, that is when it becomes a sin.
When our pride makes us think that we are more important or better than someone else, then it is a sin.
And it is also a sin when our pride make us lust after something that someone else has in order to become more important ourselves.
Such was the case with a man named Simon in Samaria. As we look at Acts 8:14-25, note how his pride clouds his vision of God:
14. Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John,
15. who came down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit.
16. For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
17. Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit.
It is important at this time to clarify something. The gift of the Holy Spirit is normally bestowed at the moment of faith, which is when we believe and then act on that belief by confessing our sins with true repentance, and by submitting our will to God's will.
In the case we are looking at, the Samaritans were a non-Hebrew people who were placed in the land following the captivity of Israel by Assyria. Their religion was a combination of pagan and Jewish belief and ritual.
Therefore, the delay in receiving the Holy Spirit may have been so that they would realize that their connection was to the apostles and to Jerusalem, and not from a separate Christian religion.
The effect of what was happening must also have been dramatic. Thus Simon, who himself believed and who also used to practice magic and astonish the people, and claimed to be someone important, saw a chance for greater gain or importance, if he could do the same as the apostles.
18. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles hands, he offered them money,
19. saying, "Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit."
Simon was very prideful.
He was acting much the same way as Nebuchadnezzar.
Simon, as did Nebuchadnezzar, believed; yet he had not yet submitted to God's will and repented.
Thus Peter answers him according to his prideful condition:
20. But Peter said to him, "May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!
We can not buy or work our way into heaven. It is a free gift of God.
21. "You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God.
And if we are like Simon and Nebuchadnezzar, we likewise have no part in the kingdom of God, even if we believe.
22. "Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you.
23. "For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity."
24. But Simon answered and said, "Pray to the Lord for me yourselves, so that nothing of what you have said may come upon me."
No one else can pray our sins away or repent for us. We must do it ourselves.
Simon still seems to think that there is some magical power that is at work, for his heart is still hard.
He seems to have no concept of the fact that Jesus Christ died for his sins personally, and that in order to receive this gift, he must repent.
25. And so, when they had solemnly testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, and were preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.
Today, and for more than a year and a half previous, I have spoken the word of the Lord to you.
For almost all of our lives, the word of the Lord contained in our Bibles has been available to speak to us.
And similarly we have heard others speak the word of the Lord.
Have you truly heard the word of God?
Have you truly repented and submitted your will to God's will?
Has your heart been warmed by that belief and the infilling of the Holy Spirit?
Are you sure you are born again?
I pray you are!
But if you are not sure, then today – right now – is the time to let your pride die once and for all.
Let go of the pride of this world, that says you can bring harm on other human beings and animals, and destroy our environment for your own pleasure.
In our pride, we are not to dominate and destroy God's beautiful creation, which is the false teaching of the meaning of dominion.
Instead, we need to lose this worldly pride, and humble ourselves before the Lord, and truly care for God's every aspect of God's creation and do everything in our power to protect it, and all who live upon it, both humans and animals.
We are to be the peacemaking children of God.
Come before God, right now.
For there may come a day when it is too late, and all who speak the truth will depart.
Don't be left out.
Jesus loves you very much.
Accept what He did for you.